What horrors, eh?

Cheap housing is cheap:

She lives in one of 10 social housing flats in a development of 60 properties. They have a separate front door – known colloquially as a “poor door” – by the other residents’ bins.

They don’t have a lift or access to any parking.

But the bit that really stopped James in his tracks was that they have no access to the development’s garden. Other residents can take their dogs in it, but Jabeen’s children are banned.

Afterwards, James admitted he didn’t realise this was happening, saying: “Their dogs are allowed in the garden, but her children aren’t.

“Sometimes I get calls when you can feel your world view shifting slightly, feel your attitude to society changing.

“Jabeen’s on that list for me now.”

Shocker, eh?

They also don’t get access to the gym, the swimming pool or the under the volcano secret submarine lair.

They can’t even hand out free money

Nicola Sturgeon’s government has been forced to issue a last-ditch appeal for more time to make thousands of delayed farm subsidy payments in the hope of avoiding up to £60 million of EU fines.

For the second year running, the Scottish Government has approached the European Commission asking for the June 30 payment deadline to be extended following the catastrophic failure of a £178 million computer system that was supposed to hand out the money.

Yet, fifthly and candidly, government must rule more of our lives.

Again, no knowledge of history here is there

Which is odd for someone whose degree was modern history really:

To look after its properties, the council created the largest management organisation of its type in England – unfeasibly large, it turned out, and unaccountable to its own tenants. This was the £11m-a-year body that handed the £10m refurbishment contract to the builder Rydon. The best that can be said of such outsourcing – whether in managing flats or running council departments – is that the public ends up paying more for a service that’s worse. It allows big companies to profiteer from basic public needs, and to evade democratic control.

Just to point out:

The 24-storey tower block was designed in 1967 in the Brutalist style of the era by Clifford Wearden and Associates,[5][6] with the council approving its construction in 1970 as part of phase one of the Lancaster West redevelopment project.[7][8][5][note 1]

Construction, by contractors A E Symes, of Leyton, London, commenced in 1972 under the council housing system with the building being completed in 1974.

Hmmmmm.

The Doublethink is impressive here

I worked with a group of residents living in Grenfell Tower through my involvement with the Radical Housing Network, a network of housing campaigns across London. The first meeting of tenants in early 2015 was attended by around 100 residents. Each spoke of the historical neglect of the building, of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) failing to undertake basic but vital maintenance or improvements. Residents recounted incidents such as disturbing power surges in which appliances “blew up”.

I’d been asked to help the residents organise and campaign on the specific issue of a major refurbishment of the building being undertaken by a private contractor.

They just spent £70,000 per flat on hte place. Admittedly, not very well which was the cause of the problem, but it’s still not ignoring them nor is it neglect of the building now, is it?

Well done Polly, completely missing the point

As the country fell silent yesterday for the Grenfell Tower victims, David Davis was opening negotiations to take the UK out of the EU. How did it come to this great kamikaze mission? What fired up a small and eccentric group of rightwing extremists to hammer away over the decades until they dragged us away from our closest neighbours?

One word captures their intent – and it concerns the Grenfell residents: “deregulation”. These Brexiteers are driven by a kind of fever to tear down restrictions, regulations, laws and constraints on business to let free enterprise run wild. That’s what they mean by “take back control”, though it’s not how they explained their shrink-the-state passion to referendum voters.

We don’t yet know if building regulations were weakened or disregarded at Grenfell Tower, or if rules were obeyed but wholly inadequate. We do know that coroners and experts calling for tougher safeguards were simply ignored by those who should have listened. With residents of another 4,000 tower blocks needing urgent reassurance, whatever national appetite for deregulation and risk there might have been has gone.

The Brexiteers’ ogre is the monstrous regiment of EU regulations and the abominable army of homegrown health-and-safety guardians whose red tape is deemed to hold back our buccaneering business spirit. “Elf’n’safety” officers (with a sneer) became the butt of Tory dinner party jokes about the nanny state, and a staple of Tory press myths about the EU. No, conkers and hanging baskets were never banned. Boris Johnson was minced before the Treasury select committee for his fictitious ban on recycled tea bags, children blowing up balloons or the correct weight of coffins.

Sigh.

There was significant regulation here. What there wasn’t was responsibility. And a little more of the second can be very much more important than the first. Whether we call it the Clerk of Works, or professional responsibility, whatever, that one individual–and yes, making it one person does concentrate minds wonderfully–owns a project, the benefits and failures of it in that liability sense, tends to make things safer. On the very sensible basis that someone with their knackers potentially in the vice tends to pay attention. Box ticking doesn’t have quite the same effect.

Blimey

It would take a driver’s base salary from £49,001 to £60,683 for the existing 35-hour, four-day week. Most of Southern’s drivers also work a fifth day as overtime, which tops up their pay by 25 per cent, taking the potential total pay to over £75,000.

That’s a pretty hefty pay package, isn’t it? Three times median wage in fact.

Shows the power of unions…….

Interesting

It is beyond obvious that atrocities such as this shouldn’t happen. We live in an age of building regulations and safety standards, of the testing and certifying of construction materials, of multiple specialist consultancies and subcontractors, of quality assurance and project managers, of health and safety allegedly gone mad, all in the name of eliminating risk. Yet the death toll of Grenfell Tower, if it is ever known, might make it the worst peacetime fire for very many decades, worse than the fires at Bradford City’s ground in 1985 and the Summerland leisure centre on the Isle of Man in 1973, beyond which you have to look back to the 1920s for anything comparable.

There are multiple factors. Part B of the building regulations states that “the external envelope of a building should not provide a medium for fire spread… The use of combustible materials in the cladding system and extensive cavities may present such a risk in tall buildings”. Any insulation product, it also says, “should be of limited combustibility”. Well, it combusted. The type of insulation, prohibited for use in comparable situations in Germany and the US, and similar to products that have caused serious fires in the UAE, China and Britain, is a prime suspect. It may also be that barriers that are supposed to stop the spread of flames up internal cavities were not properly installed.

Sprinklers would have saved lives. Fire stops that should have protected the internal means of escape may have been faulty or missing. The gas supply lines are under suspicion. The Grenfell Action Group had presciently warned of a lack of fire safety instructions. 999 operators fatally stuck to the official advice that people should stay in their homes, which makes sense when the building regulations are doing their job of containing fires within a single flat, but not when the whole building is engulfed. Compartmentalised thinking – the inability of any one agency to see the whole picture – played a role. It’s likely, as often in major disasters, that it was the cumulative and multiplying effect of several factors that made it so terrible.

So, layer upon layer of intrusive regulation and government made this happen.

The solution is more layers of intrusive government and regulation. That’ll work, won’t it?

Err, whut?

The rapid spread of the Lacrosse building fire, which was sparked by a cigarette on an eighth-floor balcony and raced up 13 floors to the roof of the 21-storey building in 11 minutes, was blamed on flammable aluminium composite cladding that lined the exterior concrete walls.

The same type of cladding was installed on the Grenfell Tower in 2016, as part of a £10m renovation.

Aluminium composite panels have a polyethylene or plastic core and an aluminium coating. It is a cheap building material widely used worldwide to clad high-rise apartment buildings.

The local council is putting flammable plastic coatings on high rise buildings now?

Well, there’s your problem

Initially planned by Richard Rogers, CB1 was to be a world-class arrival point, with park, piazza, heritage centre and affordable homes. Instead, it’s ‘a future slum’ plagued by antisocial behaviour and sex-trafficking

So what did go wrong?

It is hard to believe how this handsome city’s flagship scheme – masterminded by one of the country’s most feted architects and just a stone’s throw from the Stirling prize-winning Accordia housing development, could have gone quite so wrong. The answers can be found in its chequered history. The project began life in 2004, when local housebuilder Ashwell Property Group appointed the Richard Rogers Partnership to develop an outline plan for a new “business and cultural centre” on a 10-hectare site around the station.

Partly it’s using Richard Rogers and partly it’s trying to plan so much of a city.

Cambridge, I’m told, has a library or two and I would say it’s odds on that at least one of them has some Jane Jacobs in it.

They’re not really getting this, are they?

Macron backed efforts to allow the security services better access to encrypted communication, echoing the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to examine how to tackle encrypted communications between extremists. The plans have already raised concerns among privacy campaigners about state access to private citizens’ communications and how it might act as a potential gateway for hackers.

Macron said both countries “were committed to improve the means of access to encrypted content in conditions that preserve the confidentiality of messages”.

Encryption is encryption. End to end encryption is just that. The companies, Google, Facebook, don’t have keys or backdoors.

It’s like trying to stop people using one pad techniques by telling the paper makers to do something.

Minimum wage life

Americans earning minimum wage are do not need a study to know how difficult things are.

Alicia Hamiel, 23, a mother of two children in Philadelphia, earns $7.75 an hour at McDonald’s and works 26-38 hours a week, based on what the scheduler allots her. She and her family are currently living in a single room that rents for $400 a month.

“I feel like I’m failing as a mom,” she said. “If I can’t make sure they have a roof over their heads, what am I doing? I feel like I’m doing the best that I can.”

Are we sure the problem here is the level of the minimum wage, not that three people are trying to live upon it?

And if we do think that a single mother (and where’s the child support payments?) should indeed gain societal support then what’s wrong with having a system of support for single mothers (you know, the EITC, child tax credits, SNAP, Section 8) rather than insisting that the capitalists pay higher wages to everyone?

Those police cuts

If you don’t like me, I don’t care”, was in essence May’s response to police criticism of her funding cuts. In the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack, the federation bravely spoke up about the security impact of losing more than 20,000 staff in the past seven years. A fortnight ago news broke that we are set to lose a further 4,000 officers.

In 1994 there were 128,000 police in England and Wales. In 2016, 124,000. That’s not exactly a drastic cut over time, is it?

Sure, population is up but I don’t think that includes 15,000 or so PCSOs. Invented in 2002.

This is a horror, isn’t it?

The National Audit Office calculates that by 2019-20, the education system will face cuts of 8% in real terms. That amounts to about £3bn in England – or the equivalent of £20,000 per pupil during their time in the classroom. Put that together with the new funding formula, which will see 9,000 schools face vast additional budget cuts, and secondary schools in England alone are heading for the steepest cuts to funding since the 1970s.

Last time I looked it up that would take real funding per head back to about 2005. So not all that much of an Unholy Terror then.

And as ever with Frances Ryan the terrors that come from such cuts turn out to be rather unterrifying:

Less than six miles from Downing Street and the office Theresa May is seeking to return to, primary school children have to clean their own classrooms. This week it was reported that pupils in the London borough of Wandsworth are now vacuuming at the end of the day because their school is so underfunded that it can’t afford to replace its cleaner, a story that illustrates not only the horror of today’s austerity but is a warning sign for the future.

It is a horror of austerity that pupils learn that things need to be cleaned?

When paper and electricity become luxuries, photocopying “caps” are the only option: one school in Bath apparently now allows only “one sheet per class per week”, and in a Peterborough school, they’re down to “one sheet of A4 per pupil”.

“At a time when year 11, 12 and 13 are desperate to attempt past papers as part of revision,” one teacher said, “we’re having to tell our poorest 16- to 18 year-olds to use their own paper-round and babysitting money to print off their own resources.”

And I call bollocks on that. Jeez, paper just ain’t expensive.

Oh well done Spudda!

The Nayler report, which Theresa May says she backs, requires the NHS to sell its assets as a condition of further funding. It’s privatisation by the backdoor. Here’s an explainer by Chris Holden

The Naylor report actually says that that part of the NHS estate which is surplus to the provision of medical services should be sold off in order to fund a modernisation of the medical estate.

This is fun

Food stamps: a lifeline for America’s poor that Trump wants to cut
Residents of the Congress Heights section of Washington DC tell of the devastating impact the president’s plan to cut food stamps would have on their families

Yadda, yadda, cuts, teh bastards, chunter.

They then talk to a number of people who get food stamps. None of whom, so far as I can see, would lose any money under the proposals.

Because what is being said is that eligibility should be tightened up to what it was pre-recession. Particularly, able bodied (and single,) people will have to do at least some work (which, from memory, can be as little as 6 hours volunteering a week) to get them.

But here’s The G interviewing disabled people with children about the coming loss of their food stamps, something that isn’t going to happen.

This is all most fun

Acacia Mining is preparing to close a loss-making mine after a row over exports with the Tanzanian government escalated.

Shares in the FTSE 250 gold miner plunged nearly 40pc last week after a report by the Tanzanian government accused it of under-representing the amount of gold in the concentrate it exports, potentially depriving the country of millions in royalties.

The government said that Acacia’s gold output was 10 times greater than it claimed – a level that would “make it third-biggest gold miner in the world”, the company said.

We all know the general story from the NGO side. These foreign companies rip off the locals, don’t pay tax etc etc. Try to take much too big a profit margin.

The findings, published with great fanfare on national TV, mean an export ban on gold concentrate imposed at the start of March is likely to continue indefinitely. Acacia is still able to ship out gold bars, which make up 70pc of its output, but estimates that it is losing $1m (£780,000) in revenue every day.

Some observers suggest that Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, is trying to force Acacia to fund a new gold-smelting industry, but experts say the country’s output is too small for this to be economically viable.

Any why do they demand big margins? Because of fuckwittery like this of course. But I’ll guarantee that if you dig into this you’ll find an NGO or two at the bottom of he claims about not m#paying the due royalties

Sigh, that’s not what they’re saying honey

So what if the poor buy avocados – everybody deserves a little luxury
Emma Brockes

How dehumanising it is when rich people tell those further down the economic food chain they shouldn’t have any small pleasures

What people are saying is two fold.

Firstly, it’s just the basic economic problem. Unlimited wants and scarce resources. So, if you want this over here then you cannot also have that over there.

No one is saying that treats shouldn’t be allowed. Only that choices must be made.

The secondary point is not all that many treats if I’ve got to pay for it too.

Ritchie on those Scottish numbers

The first attempt by the Office for National Statistics to break down the UK’s budget deficit by region has demonstrated the importance of the capital and highlighted how taxes and public spending are used to narrow the north-south divide.

Experimental data from the ONS showed that only three regions of the UK – London, the south-east and the east of England – ran a budget surplus in the 2015-16 financial year, the latest year for which figures are available.

Every Londoner provided £3,070 more in tax revenues than they received in public spending, while people living in the south-east ran a surplus of £1,670 per head. The east of England turned a small deficit in 2014-15 into a surplus of £242 per head in 2015-16.

By contrast, spending exceeded tax revenues by £5,440 per head in Northern Ireland and by £3,820 in the orth-east. Scotland, which has seen its public finances badly affected by the plunge in global oil prices, ran a deficit of £2,830 a head.

At which point Richie tells us that his early diatribes about the Scottish numbers are…..well, actually, no, he’s told us nothing that I’ve seen so far.

He’s obviously sorting out Manchester’s security problems at a conference in Holland or something.

Those education cuts

On Saturday I attended my first protest march. The weather was grey and drizzly, my banner, saying “No more cuts” was hastily made the night before and I really wished I had brought a whistle. But along with many other march virgins, I joined a crowd of about 6,000 people walking through Bristol, shouting “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” at the top of my voice, in protest at cuts to the education budget.

Hmm.

Spending seems to be rolling back to about the levels of 2005 or so as a portion of the national budget. Or after inflation, whichever way around you want to look at it.

As a rough guide the system gets £5,000 a year per kid and £7,000 per teenager. Teaching them to read and write should be achievable within that. 4.5% of GDP, 11.5% of public expenditure.

Also, note what this woman is actually marching for. That someone else pay the bills for her children to be educated.